Care Walking for Zayna
April 1, 2015 – A Care Walk will be held on May 2 in West Babylon. One of the teams participating is Team Zayna, named in memory of Zayna Connolly, a child with thalassemia who passed away earlier this year. Below, Sarah Baqueri Connolly speaks about her and her husband’s involvement with Care Walk this year. Those wishing to donate to Team Zayna’s Care Walk can do so by clicking here.
Zayna passed away this past January. Michael and I have walked with her all 3 years of her life, and this year, we’ll be walking in her memory. We are continuing with the tradition because the fight for a cure for thalassemia has not stopped just because she isn’t physically here. Because of Zayna, we had the opportunity to make such close friendships with many patients and their families. From now on, we’ll be walking for Zayna and all of her friends. We are lucky to have met Sharon Radonis, who originally set up the Suffolk Chapter Walk on Long Island in memory of her friend Michelle Palermo, another thalassemia patient who is no longer with us. She works very hard to set up the Care Walk every year and we are so blessed that she has taken Team Zayna under wing! If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I’d be able to get everything together in time, while dealing with our recent loss.
The first Care Walk we went to was in 2012. Zayna was only 3 months old at the time and couldn’t really participate. The following year, she still wasn’t up and running around. Last year was the first year Zayna really got to enjoy herself and participate in all of the fun activities the Suffolk Chapter had set up for the young children. She loved tattoos and immediately got a dragon placed on her arm. After that, Zayna and her cousins had a blast in the bounce house! She was in her element: outdoors, mingling with the crowd and showing people that having a blood disorder never held her back from being a fun loving, energetic and spunky kid! Even though she will only be joining us in spirit from now on, our goal is to keep the energy up and show people that the Care Walk is about having fun while still raising awareness and funds to help find a cure for this terrible disorder.
The Care Walk is one of the most important fundraising events patients and their families can participate in. Michael and I have been lucky enough to work with likeminded people who have one goal: working towards eradicating thalassemia! It gives us the chance to give back to the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation so that they, in turn, can continue their work in helping to cure Thalassemia. The Care Walk is a chance for each of us to give back to an organization that continues to generously hold Patient/Family Conferences, hands out scholarships to our brightest, helps counsel whoever may be in need, keeps us up to date on all of the newest advancements science has to offer, and so on. They wouldn’t be able to do that without our help!
Zayna’s motto was “Be Happy.” Our friends and family have rallied behind us ever since we learned that Zayna had thalassemia and she would be so proud of the thalassemia community that has come together to support us and each other after her passing. She would want each of us to continue the fight, to continue to raise funds and awareness for the disorder, and most all, to enjoy doing it every step of the way! Don’t be ashamed to invite people to your Care Walk because you think they won’t be interested in donating to something they don’t know about; invite people to share in who YOU are and they will come to your Walk because they want to support YOU!
It’s our job, as Zayna’s parents, to give back to a community that has given us so very much these last few years. Because of her, we have met so many strong, intelligent and inspirational patients, parents, siblings and staff members. You have all become our extended family and we love you with the same love you had for Zayna. We will continue to do whatever we can to continue the fight against thalassemia because that is what family does. They say “blood is thicker than water,” but that’s not always true. Zayna survived on the blood of strangers, not ours, and that didn’t make her any less “ours.” The Care Walk gives us a chance to continue to keep her legacy alive.